Service Innovation

Teresa Kowal
5 min readJan 21, 2021


Most of the time when we think about innovation, we think about product innovation. We think of new technologies (including hardware and devices), gadgets, widgets and “stuff”, in general. Certainly, product innovation is important as we can simplify work tasks and build systems that operate more efficiently with increased production.

Yet, the other side of innovation — in the service sector — allows us to help customers via convenience, use of use, and efficiency as well. Often, we see the combination of new products with new service models. Sometimes, new products require new service models.

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Factors for Service Innovation

One of the key factors in service innovation is your competition. When you are first investigating a new method of service delivery, you will want to understand how you measure up to competitors. Some firms can use direct observation to compare service delivery. For example, if you work at “Hotel Chain A”, you can easily spend a few nights at “Hotel Chain B” to compare both tangible offerings and customer experience.

Tangible Offering

In the “whole product” model of 0innovation, the tangible offering is what we can see and touch. (For more information, see Chapter 4 of The Innovation ANSWER Book.) In the example of a hotel stay (a service), the tangible offerings include the thickness of the mattress, cleanliness of the bathroom, and availability of amenities (like hot breakfast and a fitness center). Usually, tangible offerings are fairly comparable within a service price point or a brand category.

Attitudes and Beyond

What truly differentiates service delivery in competitive markets is the experience a customer has while receiving the service. Continuing the example of a hotel chain, the speed of the check-in process is a measure of excellence in service delivery. Friendliness of staff and rapid correction o problems lead to improved experiences and can outweigh the competition.

Let me compare two experiences at the same hotel chain where I have recently stayed. At a hotel in Texas, we pulled up to the parking lot and saw an employee sitting on the bench outside the front door smoking a cigarette. We entered the lobby and were greeted by a hand-lettered sign: “Tending to another guest. Back in 5 minutes”.

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Of course, you can guess that we waited more than five minutes to check-in and the employee assisting us was the smoker. She did not offer the traditional drinks and snacks that go to loyalty members at my level. During our conversation, I further learned that due to the corona-panic, the hotel had laid off a lot of employees and she had been assigned to night shift. Her previous work shifts were in the morning, which she preferred to look after her kids.

While I understood — and sympathized — with her plight, I did not receive the expected level of service. In comparison, in Las Vegas, I stayed at the same hotel chain near the airport for an early morning flight. The check-in attendant was very friendly and asked about my hometown as he checked us into our room. He then commented on my number of recent stays at the chain and loyalty level, so he asked if we wanted a room upgrade to a suite. And instead of giving us just one drink and snack, he emptied the snack bin (figuratively) as we had a full bag of assorted munchies!

Attitudes of staff go a long way in meeting customer expectations. Training and latitude to solve problems can help improve service delivery throughout an organization. Of course, the product has to be functional and priced competitively, but the biggest difference in customer loyalty and long-term profitability is within service delivery.

Service Innovation

As we enter a new year, take this opportunity to examine all aspects of your business model. From an innovation standpoint, you’ll want to see if new technologies can improve how your product functions. Maybe you can even add (or strip away excess) features of specific interest to your customers.

More importantly, you will want to deeply examine your service delivery. How does your service model compare to competitors in the same market? How do users view accessibility, availability, and appropriateness of your service? Do your staff reflect the standards of excellence required in service delivery?

What’s Your Focus on Service?

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Join me on Friday, 22 January 2021, for the Creative Cafe. We are meeting about every other Friday at 10:00 am CST for a free and open discussion on all things innovation. A general topic for this week is “Setting Achievable Goals” — including designing an effective service innovation model. Click here for the Zoom link. For personalized problem-solving or customized training, contact me at for innovation coaching or consulting.


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About Me

I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at or area code 281 + phone 787–3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.

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Teresa Kowal

I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. My passion is innovation and helping others improve their new product development ecosystems.